Have you ever imagined the most luxurious, scenic, and best train journeys in the world?
Trains can take us to places that regular roads can’t, including remote parts of Malaysia and the Canadian Rockies. The 15 most popular train trips throughout the world were selected by readers who have experienced coasting through one of the locations stated in this article.
So sit back and relax while we unravel different locations you can travel through in the world via train ranging from Europe to America to Asia and down to the coast of Africa.
1. The Tokaido Shinkansen
- Location: TOKYO TO OSAKA, JAPAN
To top this year’s top best train journeys in the world, Tokyo to Osaka, Japan tops the list. The original Shinkansen used this route in 1964, but now the 515 kilometers can be covered in just over two and a half hours on the bullet train Nozomi that goes through Mount Fuji. On the Shinkansen, the scenery goes past too quickly to be appreciated; therefore, sightseeing is not a popular activity.
But once on board, the bullet train experience in Japan is unparalleled. Travelers line up in an orderly fashion at the station, enter the train car one by one, and remain seated for the remainder of the trip while quietly perusing ekiben.
Named after the Japanese words for “station” (eki) and “packed lunch” (bento), “ekiben” allow merchants to display their regional specialties utilizing in-season, locally sourced ingredients.
Mounds of green-tea rice are shaped into flowers, edamame pods are stacked in lines, and grated radish is dispersed like snow, all of which are neatly packed inside round, octagonal, or rectangular bamboo boxes, partitioned styrofoam or hermetically sealed cardboard. Get a box, relax, and listen to the soothing background noise as the train speeds rapidly across the country.
2. The Trans-Mongolian Express
- Location: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia To Beijing, China
The Trans-Siberian Railway’s journey from Moscow to Vladivostok is the Holy Grail for any train enthusiast. The final stretch of the Trans-Mongolian road between Moscow and Beijing features some of the most stunning landscapes of the entire journey.
When you talk of the world’s best train journey, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to Bejing, China, cannot be underestimated. When the train leaves Siberia for Mongolia, the landscape changes to arid red flats with grassy dunes descending to the horizon. It’s possible to see the glitter of lakes and rivers as they curve towards the tracks in the dusk light, the ground glowing an orange-red.
While the train passes over steep slopes and orchards skidding down into the river, where fishermen squat in wide trousers and conical caps, passengers should be able to see the Great Wall wriggling away in the distance.
3. The Riviera Railway
- Location: Cannes, France To Ventimiglia, Italy
Beginning in the proper Riviera city, the road travels through France and into Italy, eventually arriving at the picturesque shambling Italian market town of Ventimiglia 90 minutes later.
Cagnes-sur-mer, Juan les Pins, and Antibes are just a few of the lesser-known coastal hideaways the double-decker train visits as it traces the curves of the beautiful Ligurian sea, bringing passengers through towns and villages where bougainvillea cascades down the sides of pink and yellow apartment complexes, and men with orange chests play pétanque in the sunshine.
When the train stops in Nice and Monaco, passengers can look out the window and see yachts bobbing in the bays, teenagers playing beach volleyball, and Lamborghinis growling along the streets. Eventually, the train will slow down as it approaches the roughly stacked hillsides and the old Italian station.
4. London to Fort William
- Location: UK
- Duration: 419 miles/13hr
- Price (single): From £45
One of the last sleeper trains in Britain, the Caledonian Sleeper, is getting a £100 million facelift. The other is the Night Riviera to Penzance. Every car on the new trains will have a double bed, and each bathroom will be stocked with Arran amenities and Highland fare.
In October, they’ll begin service on the Lowland route between London and Edinburgh/Glasgow, and by the following year, they’ll be a part of the Highland route all the way to Fort William.
One of Britain’s finest train rides is on the Deerstalker, the Highland service. It then continues beyond Loch Treig and the base of Ben Nevis after leaving Glasgow. The railway continues from Fort William to Mallaig, past the Glenfinnan viaduct (made famous in the Harry Potter series), where boats to Skye depart.
5. Bilbao to Ferrol, Spain
- Location: Europe
- Duration: 267 miles/12½hr
- Price: From £52
Rightly sitting on the 5th spot of the world’s best train journey is the Bibao to Ferrol in Spain. The Feve line, a narrow-gauge railway on the north coast of Spain, is popular with locals and is ideal for leisurely journeys. Spend a week or longer (a 30-day pass is €88.90) jumping on and off at historic sites, coastal towns, and fishing communities.
The trail follows a winding path inland from the shore through verdant valleys. Self-guided travelers can now take the train from Cudillero to Ribadesella in Spain for a week (from £595, inntravel.co.uk).
6. Trondheim to Bodø, Norway
- Location: Train trip from Trondheim to Bodo, Norway, across the Arctic Circle.
- Duration: 453 miles/10hr
- Price: From £18
When it comes to Norwegian railways, only the Nordlandsbanen crosses the Arctic Circle, making it the longest in the country. Farms, forests, mountains, rivers, and fjords may all be seen along the route from Trondheim to Bod, where ferries to the Lofoten islands depart.
There is a monument marking the Arctic Circle in the Saltfjellet mountains. Two daytime trains and a sleeper stop here, giving passengers a chance to see the midnight sun in the summer and the northern lights in the winter.
The line is accessible with a Norway Interrail pass (from £155, interrail.eu) and features roughly 30 stations along the way.
7. The Sunset Limited
- Location: New Orleans To Los Angeles, USA
The Sunset Limited, which travels from New Orleans to Los Angeles in just under two days, is the oldest continuously operating train in the United States. Get a seat in the observation car, and you could just see a cross-section of American life, from musicians and instructors to farmers and Amish carpenters, railroad workers, and runaways.
Passengers have plenty of leisure to read, play guitar, or look out for jackrabbits and golden eagles as they travel through the bayous of Louisiana, cacti of New Mexico, and deep crimson sunsets of Arizona.
You’ll want to have some cash on hand for when the train pulls into El Paso, and the legendary Burrito Lady appears with a freezer box full of her delicious creations. The line to get a taste of her fantastic chili-beef burritos is so long that even the Amtrak employees have joined it.
8. Naples to Palermo, Italy
- Location: Salerno, on the Naples-Palermo line.
- Duration: 196 miles/9hr
- Price: £11
You can skip the expensive flight to Sicily by taking the train there instead. The Messina Strait may be crossed by train from Milan (overnight sleeper), Rome, and Naples (day and night), with the trains being diverted onto ferries at Villa San Giovanni in Calabria.
These are some of the last operating passenger ferry trains in Europe. The Naples train avoids Vesuvius and follows the coast down to Italy’s heel. No meals will be provided, so be sure to bring your own snacks. When the railway arrives in Sicily, it splits in two: one branch travels south via Mount Etna to Catania and Siracusa, while the other branch travels west to the island’s capital of Palermo.
9. Bastia to Ajaccio, Corsica
- Location: Corsica’s Pont du Vecchio, designed by Gustave Eiffel.
- Duration: 98 miles/3½ hours
- Price: £19
The 144 miles of narrow-gauge track on Corsica were constructed across the island’s mountainous terrain over the course of 22 years at the end of the nineteenth century. An astounding 22 years were spent on this project, and the result is one of the most spectacular railways in Europe. It features 32 tunnels and 52 bridges and viaducts, notably the Pont du Vecchio, which was built by Gustav Eiffel.
The section between Corte and Bocognano is the most breathtaking since it follows the Gravona valley through gorges and past the breathtaking Bride’s Veil waterfall, which is 70 meters in height. From the island of L’Ile-Rousse, a second line runs northwest along the coast to Calvi. On May 3rd, new flights began departing from Stansted to Ajaccio, Bastia, and Figura (starting at £98, aircorsica.com).
10. Mostar to Sarajevo, Bosnia
- Duration: 73 miles/2hr
- Price: £5
On the railway between Sarajevo and Mostar, one may observe the beautiful Bosnian and Herzegovinian countryside.
After two years of reconstruction, last summer, the line between Mostar and Sarajevo reopened with climate-controlled trains. Especially along the Neretva River, this train ride offers stunning landscapes at a low price.
The road stays in the valley, while the train takes a more scenic route through the mountains, complete with viaducts, switchbacks, and tunnels. Once upon a time, you could take a train from Sarajevo to Zagreb in Croatia. To be updated on the latest regarding the ongoing negotiations between the two countries, visit seat61.com.
11. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
- Location: VENICE, ITALY TO LONDON, UK
Belmond has reinvented the Orient Express, arguably the most famous train in the world and one of Europe’s top rail experiences, in the style of the glamorous era of travel it evokes.
Passengers on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express can relive the golden age of train travel in private compartments where mahogany paneling gleams from numerous coats of varnish and mattresses are draped in layers of damask linens.
Dinner in the Swiss Alps while eating seared chicken oysters and foie gras requires a suit and tie, whereas lunch in the Italian Dolomites needs only an elbow-length glove.
Relax to Moon River being played on the piano at the bar before rocking yourself to sleep while the train rumbles on through the night.
12. Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa
- Location: Vineyards and mountains in the Hex Valley, Africa.
- Duration: 951 miles/26hr
- Price: £40 for a sleeper
Prices for a trip on the Blue Train, which runs from Pretoria to Cape Town, start at £895 per person. In contrast, two less expensive options begin in Johannesburg rather than Pretoria and follow the same trip.
The Shosholoza Meyl train is the most affordable option while still providing amenities like sleeping carriages and a cafe car. There are private beds, complimentary meals, and a lounge bar car available on the Premier Classe train (starting at £189). At a fraction of the price, visitors get the same breathtaking views of Table Mountain, the Cape wine area, the Karoo desert, and the Hex River pass.
13. The Death Railway
- Location: Bangkok To Nam Tok, Thailand
In World War II, the Japanese used Allied POWs as slave labor to construct a section of railway between Thailand and Burma in preparation for an invasion of India. It is said that for every sleeper laid, one man died from cholera, beriberi, dysentery, or dengue fever as the workers laid 257 miles of railway track in 14 months, 372 of which were branch lines and sidings.
Passengers can still take a portion of the route between Bangkok Thonburi and Nam Tok in Kanchanaburi; this route is now known as the “Death Railway” due to its tragic history of the route.
The train leaves twice a day and travels west through jungle-like terrain, rubbing up against monsoon-heavy branches that sweep past the windows and snap off, throwing twigs all over the aisles.
The train crosses the famed River Kwai Bridge and then rumbles along old wooden trestles, passing tiny, vividly colored stops and hooting its arrival while hawkers sell hot noodles, fishcakes, and bottles of iced Nescafé from the open-air cars.
14. Addis Ababa to Djibouti City, East Africa
- Duration: 452 miles/13hr
- Price: From £26
The new route between Ethiopia and Djibouti opened in January 2018 with brand new trains and stations, replacing older tracks that were closed in 2010.
The route begins at Adama in the Rift Valley and continues on to Djibouti City on the coast via the Awash River gorge and a bridge that is 60 meters high and 155 meters long.
A Djibouti visa is required to board the train, and tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance at the station. Passengers should also allow 45 minutes for security checks of their bags and immigration procedures. By 2020, Ethiopia hopes to have built further lines over its borders with Kenya, Sudan, and South Sudan.
15. Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam, Zambia/Tanzania
- Duration: 1,156 miles/46hr
- Price: From £17
Traveling on the Tazara train is a fantastic option for those on a tight budget who still want to experience a safari. You’ll get the chance to see elephants, rhinoceroses, hippos, lions, giraffes, zebras, and more as you go through Selous game reserve, one of the largest in the world.
For less than twenty pounds, you get transportation, lodging for two nights, and opportunities to watch the local wildlife. The deluxe Rovos Rail excursion from Dar es Salaam to Angola or Cape Town costs from £9,000 for 15 days and follows a similar route.
16. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway
- Location: Xining To Lhasa, China
There aren’t many train rides that will make you feel like you need to catch your breath, but the Qinghai-Tibet railway is one of them. At its highest point, it’s over 5,000 meters above sea level, which means that most passengers will suffer from altitude sickness.
The tallest railway in the world, which links Xining in mainland China to Lhasa in Tibet, passes over extremely dangerous terrain and was once considered an engineering impossibility.
Passengers awake to the hiss of pure oxygen being pumped into the compartment and, upon raising the blackout blind, are treated to a scene reminiscent of a Rothko painting: a slab of electric blue sky on a block of the yellow plateau. Grazing dreadlocked yaks can be seen climbing the hillsides, and the lakes reflect the sunlight like liquid metal.
Blue light from the Kunlun Mountains envelops the train cars as the air thins, and the dust freezes as it travels higher into the air.
Downhill from Lhasa, the landscape becomes as velvety as suede, punctuated by the occasional nomad tent adorned with fluttering prayer flags.
17. Los Mochis to Chihuahua, Mexico
- Duration: 406 miles/16hr
- Price: £53
With 86 tunnels and 37 bridges to see, this route is sure to keep your attention. On its way from the coast to the city of Chihuahua, the train passes through the gorges of the Sierra Tarahumara. With up to three overnights included at no extra cost, this route is ideal for a cross-country excursion.
18. The Mandovi Express
- Location: Mumbai To Madgaon, India
The Mandovi Express takes little under twelve hours to make its way along the Konkan Coast, with the dazzling Arabian Sea on one side and the undulating Sahyadri Hills on the other. The doors are left open, and warm sea air blows up the aisles.
After departing Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai at roughly 7 a.m., the train speeds through the heart of the megacity and out into the countryside, passing within meters of children playing cricket and farmers herding goats.
As it makes its way down to Goa, the train passes through palm groves and across more than 2,000 bridges, including India’s highest viaduct.
You may see the catering crew chop cauliflower and okra while listening to the sizzle of freshly fried onion bhajis in the Mandovi Express’s finest pantry car, which is among the best on all of the Indian Railways.
Get your fill of chicken biryani and raita, spring rolls, and cups upon cups of treacle-sweet tea from the hawkers who line the aisles.
19. Sudbury to White River, Canada
- Duration: 298 miles/9hr
- Price: From £36
Flooding has damaged the track and bridges, forcing the temporary suspension of the two-night Churchill to Winnipeg route, which offered passengers a chance to see polar bears and the northern lights.
The Budd Car, as it is colloquially known, connects a number of isolated communities in northern Ontario and is just one of several Canadian rail excursions available.
Passengers on the wilderness route can relax as they look out the train’s picture windows at the verdant trees and glistening rivers below them. The train travels the route three times a week, and in October, when the leaves are changing color, it is especially busy.
20. Anchorage to Fairbanks, Alaska
- Location: Bridge over Hurricane Gulch in central Alaska
- Duration: 356 miles/12hr
- Price: From £137
Highlights include the vista from the Hurricane Gulch bridge (shown) and, on a clear day, the glimpse of Denali, North America’s highest mountain, as you ride the Denali Star, the Alaska Railroad’s flagship train, along rivers, gorges, and mountains.
It is possible to break up the trip into several days (and spend £600 on five nights) by staying in both Anchorage and the national park. From May 16 to September 16, as well as on select weekdays and weekends in the winter, the trains run daily.
21. The Reunification Express
- Location: Hanoi To Da Nang, Vietnam
The Reunification Express begins its voyage in Hanoi and continues all the way to Ho Chi Minh City in the south, but the best part of the trip is the section between Hanoi and Da Nang.
Regular service resumed after the reunification of the country in 1976, despite the fact that the railway had been severely damaged by American bombing throughout the Vietnam War.
The railway cuts far into the heart of the metropolis, providing voyeuristic views of people relaxing in their homes behind the scenes.
Inches from the walls and gardens of the peasants, the train climbs for kilometers through the jungle so that you can see their faces and wave.
The final leg of the journey takes the train along the clifftops above the South China Sea, through Lang Co Bay, where a finger of golden sand runs down the water’s edge, and into Da Nang station.
22. Lima to Huancayo, Peru
- Location: The Ferrocarril Central Andino train crosses the Andes en route from Lima to Huancayo, Peru.
- Duration: 206 miles/12hr
- Price: From £87
In Peru, the majority of visitors ride the tourist train from Cusco to Machu Picchu. Traveling from Lima to Huancayo, the picturesque city of the central highlands, is a fun (though hectic) ride, but if you’re looking for something truly out of the ordinary, you should make the trip.
As it winds its way through the Andes, this train climbs to an impressive 4,782 meters, making it the world’s second-highest passenger railway journey. If you’re planning a vacation, keep in mind that the train only travels once or twice a month; schedules can be found on the webpage.
23. The Rupert Rocket
Location: Jasper To Prince Rupert, Canada
From Alberta’s Jasper National Park, visitors on the Skeena railway (also known as The Rupert Rocket) can reach remote parts of British Columbia that are unfamiliar even to many Canadians.
The train departs three times a week and travels northwest, past snow-capped Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, the Cariboo Mountains, and armies of Douglas firs moving down the hills.
While the train glides along the border of placid, teal-green lakes under clear blue skies, travelers can keep warm in the panoramic dome car and keep an eye out for black bears, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, and bald eagles.
Passing past First Nations reservations, sawmill villages, and freshwater lakes teeming with salmon, the railway travels from Prince George to Prince Rupert, making stops in the itty-bitty towns of Kwinitsa, Vanderhoof, and Penny along the way.
24. Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam, India
- Location: Nilgiri Mountain Railway, moving through a tea estate, Tamil Nadu
- Duration: 29 miles/5hr
- Price: About 30p
India’s only rack and pinion railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway to Udagamandalam (or Ooty) hill station, is part of the Mountain Railways of India, which are on the World Heritage List. The trains, which are blue and cream in color, climb the highest mountain in Asia.
The ascent takes about five hours, but the descent only takes about three and a half. Along the way, the train will see ravines, tea plantations, and forested hills, as well as travel over 250 bridges and through 16 tunnels.
Steam trains have returned this year, but they are priced for tourists (weekends to June 24th, from £8.60). Make sure to plan ahead and book in advance.
25. Colombo to Jaffna, Sri Lanka
- Duration: 190 miles/6¾hr
- Price: About £3.50
Northern Sri Lanka was shut off for decades due to the civil war, and Jaffna, the country’s second city, saw a decline in population and status as a result. In 2013, however, service resumed from the nation’s capital, and since then, visitors from all over the world have been flocking to the city to learn more about its intriguing Tamil culture.
It is not uncommon for intercity trains to run over their scheduled time, which is less than seven hours. Travel agencies like visitsrilankatours.co.uk are the only way for tourists to reserve first- and second-class tickets, which go on sale 30 days in advance.
In order to witness the transition from green to parched landscapes punctuated by brightly striped Hindu temples, it is recommended to reserve a seat in an observation car (available on various trains) in advance.
26. Xining to Lhasa, China/Tibet
- Duration: 1,225 miles/21hr
- Price: From £55
When you reach the Tanggula Pass on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, you will have traveled to an astounding altitude of 5,231 meters, making it the highest railway in the world.
Beijing and Shanghai are just two of the major cities in China from which long-distance trains depart for Lhasa; nevertheless, it is recommended that travelers take a stop at Xining, at an altitude of 2,300 meters, to adjust to the higher altitude before continuing on to Lhasa. Though oxygen is piped into the cars, travelers can also bring their own oxygen tanks.
Travelers from outside the country must obtain special authorization to enter Tibet, which can be done through a registered tour operator. The Tibetan plateau is home to stunning landscapes, including a barren steppe cut through by frozen rivers and framed by towering snow-capped mountains. By 2020, the line is expected to be extended to the subtropical town of Zhangmu, near the Nepal border.
27. Poipet to Sisophon, Cambodia
- Duration: 30 miles/1¼hr
- Price: Free (to 31 July)
Since 2009, Cambodia has not had any passenger trains. The Phnom Penh–Sihanoukville route resumed in 2016. A section of the northern line that had been closed for 45 years reopened this month.
A small portion is currently operational, stretching from Poipet on the Thai border to Sisophon, Cambodia’s fourth city, but by the end of the month, it will be expanded south to the popular Battambang and then on to Pursat and Phnom Penh (209 miles in total).
Better yet, until the end of July, all rides are on the house. A new route between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is also in the works. It will be possible to travel by rail between Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam once both routes are finished.
28. Belgrave to Gembrook, Victoria
- Duration: 15 miles/2hr
- Price: £28
Both the Indian Pacific (from Sydney to Perth) and the Ghan (from Adelaide to Darwin) are among Australia‘s longest train rides at an astounding 2,698 miles. Those aren’t like Puffing Billy, the century-old steam train that chugs through the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne.
Soon after crossing the historic Monbulk Creek trestle bridge, the track enters a ferny woodland frequented by echidnas and koalas. Compared to a cross-country epic, it is much more doable and, therefore, suitable for families.
Which Country Is Best For Train Travel?
The best country with train travel and experiences is Switzerland. Switzerland, a small country with stunning scenery, is home to a world-class rail system.
What Is The Most Luxurious Train Ride In The World?
Here are some of the most luxurious train rides in the world right now:
- Belmond Royal Scotsman: Scottish Highlands.
- Maharajas’ Express: Delhi to Mumbai.
- Seven Stars: Kyushu, Japan.
- The Rocky Mountaineer: Banff to Vancouver
- The Canadian: Toronto to Vancouver.
- The Transcantabrico Gran Lujo: San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela.
Where Are The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys?
Following are some of the scenic railway journeys in the world:
- The Northern Belle along the Welsh borders.
- The Inlandsbanan in Sweden.
- Aussie Coast to Coast on the Indian Pacific.
- Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star.
- The Far North Line from Inverness to Wick in Scotland.
Which Is The Most Beautiful Train In The World?
Following are the world’s most beautiful trains right now:
- The Glacier Express.
- Hudson River Rail Excursions.
- Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
- Nevada Northern Railway.
- Pacific Surfliner.
- Napa Valley Wine Train.
- Rocky Mountaineer.
- Jacobite Steam Train.
Where Is The World’s Most Expensive Train Ride?
The most expensive train ride in the world right now is the Venice Simplon Orient Express, Europe
One of the greatest ways to see major European cities is on the Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE), which also happens to be one of the costliest train rides in the world. Between Paris and Istanbul, as well as Istanbul and Venice, the train provides a six-day, five-night vacation package.